I am going to preface this by saying that Only Watch has quickly become my personal highlight of the annual horological calendar. In its eighth installation 52 watch companies including some of the biggest names in the game come together to produce unique pieces which will be put up for auction. For many brands, this circus of horological extravagance has become a friendly competition on who can create the coolest timepiece. Each brand releases their product until they tour the world as a collection over a two month time period making stops in Monaco, Dubai, Paris, London, New York, Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taipei before being auctioned off in Geneva.
What motivates the brands to create these incredible watches and helps the prices shoot through the roof is that all the proceeds are being donated to a select charity. Since the inception of Only Watch this one of a kind concept has already managed to raise $40 Million USD for research and development to help cure diseases. This year the focus lies with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. The disease affects 1 in 5000 male births through extreme muscle weakness starting at the age of four. At age 12 most of those affected can no longer walk. The average lifespan lies at only 26 years. While there is no treatment, good care can extend the lifespan. The real hope, however, lies with new research in the field of gene editing to eradicate this recessive gene and allow young men a healthy life. It is causes like these that show that the watch world is not just about bling and extravagance, but that this is a deeply passionate community willing to help those in need.
Fifty lots are going to find themselves under the hammer of Christie’s this year. With such a wide range of models available from different Manufacturers, there will be something that will cater to all tastes. Some pieces stand out more than others, so I have put together my personal top ten of the most interesting watches to keep an eye out for the auction later in November of this year.
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Barakuda
Blancpain has played it relatively safe for this year’s Baselworld. While some might consider this a boring approach, I personally feel that this watch ticks so many boxes it will be sure to make anybody happy who appreciates the brand’s history. The 40-mm steel piece with its in-house movement is an absolute classic in the watch world, and this version has to be the closest thing we have seen to the brands vintage design language but powered by its modern mechanical prowess. Differentiating itself from the previously released Barakuda limited edition, which is the basis for this watch, it chooses to forgo the brash colors in favour of a clean white with light blue accents making for a more fitting appearance when considering its origins as a stealthy dive watch.
Breguet Type 20 Revival 2055ST
It is almost as if Breguet saw Blancpain and decided to one-up them. You may have noticed that this watch is not called a Type XX, and that is because that designation was for the models released for civilian use. This watch, however, retraces its routes to its military ancestor in an amazingly faithful recreation. The case design and dimensions, the hands and dial, heck even the movement have been made to be as close to the original as possible. Only slight differences enable the differentiation, like the fact that this watch is actually signed by Breguet and that the dial comes in a tropical brownish hue, whereas the originals were unnamed and came in black and took some time to develop the Patina. This watch does Vintage to another level, and probably offers the most value for watch nerds like myself.
Christophe Claret Maestro Corail
Christophe Claret has always struck me as a brand that is provocative, confident, and loud. No watch represents those values better in my eyes than the Maestro Mamba, so it is only fitting that they chose it as the base for their Only Watch Corail piece. They decided to use a Blue and Orange colour combination which gives a particularly striking appearance to the hand-engraved 3-D snake which winds itself through your dial. The snake looks so lively that it almost makes you not realize the other aspects which help build this amazing timepiece like their patented cone structured big date window or their MEMO function, a simple but effective reminder complication. With the mechanical background to back it up, this is one of the most exciting watches of this year’s auction.
F. P. Journe Astronomic Blue
F. P. Journe has a reputation as one of the most consistent and exciting contributors to Only Watch. The independent watchmaker has one of the most hard-core fan bases and in the knowledge of that reserves his best pieces to be put up for the annual charity auction. The case packs a major punch at 44mm and is made like previous installations completely in Tantalum, a particularly rare and hard to manufacture material with a beautifully subtle grayish-blue shade to it. The hand-wound piece has indicators on the front and back and displays two time zones, moon-phase, sidereal time, day/night indicator, sunrise/sunset indicator, power reserve, annual calendar with Zodiac indication, and the equation of time. Oh, and it also has a tourbillon with a rementoir d’egalité and deadbeat seconds as if all this was not enough. If it where not for another watch later on this list this would be my pick for the lot to achieve the highest price.
Ferdinand Berthaud Chronomètre FB1 “Night Star”
This is the first year that Ferdinand Berthaud is participating at Only Watch and I for one am glad that they made the choice. The brand isn’t necessarily on the radar of most watch enthusiasts as it has only been around for about three years but offers not only an interesting historical inspiration but also compelling designs and the mechanical skills to match it. The watch sets itself apart from others in the collection through the thematic play on the night and the stars which fit well to the marine inspirations of this piece.
Jaeger Le-Coultre Master Ultra Thin Perpetual Enamel Chestnut
This watch was one that on my first scan through the lots of this charity auction I hardly noticed. When taking a closer look however I really started to appreciate the many subtle ways in which the attention for detail plays together to make for a really refined wristwatch. Brown as a color is rarely utilized well but this watch manages to make it work, which makes you question why Jaeger didn’t put it on a brown leather strap to match from the get-go.
Montblanc 1858 Split Second Chronograph
What is a pen manufacturer doing at Only Watch? Oh right, creating a damn cool watch. The Montblanc 1858 Split Second Chronograph is a sleeper in every sense of the way. First of all this watch is not on the radar of most, but it packs a heavy punch that I am sure will garner more respect in the years to come. The hand-finished movement has pocket watch origins with an additional column wheel for a split second mechanism. The dial is made out of agate, a semiprecious stone, and they managed to make the colour go darker towards the outside. The biggest change to the otherwise left untouched design is the case being made out of titanium rather than bronze, a clever choice that helps prevent this 44mm piece from feeling too hefty.
Patek 6300A Grandmaster Chime Steel
This watch will be the most expensive watch of this auction, and it probably won’t even be close. The reference 6300 is Patek’s most complicated watch as well as their most expensive. Only a few get made each year costing USD 2.2 million for the white gold model. Imagine then what happens for a unique steel case and salmon dial version up for auction. I will leave the explanation of this watches 20 complications for another blog, but this watch is probably the most impressive timepiece mechanically speaking ever created. While this is personally not my favourite watch from their collection the fact that it is guaranteed to bring in millions for charity makes me very happy.
Richard Mille RM 11-03 McLaren Prototype
Now you can argue about Richard Mille pricing as much as you like, but you got to appreciate what it will do for this cause. This prototype for a McLaren collaboration features a striking colour combination with the orange that has become iconic for the British car manufacturer. Little nods to the design of their cars can be seen in details like the chronograph pushers and the crown paying homage to the air intake and wheels respectively. Not convinced by the watch alone? Well, then you can also look forward to a custom-tailored racing overall, a driving day with Bruno Senna and a private tour of the McLaren Technology Centre to sweeten the deal.
Trilobe Only Watch
I am going to be honest, I didn’t even know Trilobe before starting this blog. You may not either, and that is mainly because the brand is not even a year old. The start-up is the results of a meeting of the minds between the young french entrepreneur Gautier Massonneau and the renowned watchmaker Jean-François Mojon. The brand’s mission is to “liberate time” done in two ways through the use of discs to show the time. On the one hand, rather than the indicators moving with the Trilobe the numbers, or time for this sake, is moved instead. And on the other side, we have the fact that this watch is difficult to read which requires you to take some time to know the time, the biggest luxury itself according to the founder. Trilobe has as much to gain from this auction in terms of visibility as the charity has in terms of money, and I wish for only the best for both of them.
All images courtesy of Only Watch